Like a Wobble Doll

I’d fallen into a short, weird sleep just before an appointment I had last week, and was groggy and out of sorts when my alarm woke me. My husband, working from home, offered to give me a ride.

“I can drive myself,” I said, hearing an edge in my voice.

“You’re groggy, and upset, you probably shouldn’t,” my husband said, “plus it’s five minutes away and a ride will save you parking fees.”

“I don’t care if I spend $1000 dollars on parking, or whether or not I arrive alive,” I came back.

These are strong words, unsettling to hear from your own mouth.

I can be a bit of a pill sometimes, or, as my five-year-old long ago once put it, a bucket of pills. Not that I’m the only one in my world capable of displaying unexpected pill-like behaviour—it’s as common as the common cold. But perhaps being a slightly harder-to-swallow pill is unavoidable after so many endless months of swallowing buckets of pills. I am, after all, having potent medicines pumped directly into my veins every week, medicines which put essential benign cells under constant fire as malignant ones meet their destruction. I am working long overtime hours on a confusing and challenging job.

These days, I get sore hand muscles from carrying a grocery bag a little too heavy, or from holding a pencil a little too hard. These days, some of my veins feel like someone has threaded a hard knotty piece of twine into them. These days, I’ve had headaches to trump all headaches, which is something of an adjustment for someone who’s always been proud of not really knowing what a headache is.

wobble dollI sometimes feel like I’m a weighted wobble doll, a matryoshka doll, a daruma doll. I get knocked down, bounce back, wobble around, find my balance. Repeat. But then I think simply being alive is to get knocked down, wobble around, and then find our balance again.

I’ve given the cellulitis the boot, and fully plan to continue taking back my space in other ways too. As the single long-time and respectful resident of this body, I believe I have some rights, and these squatters, thinking it okay to move in uninvited and then charge rent rather than pay it, all the while multiplying as prolifically as bunnies—they are going to continue to hear from me, more assertively than ever.

Despite the punches and punching back, it’s been a lovely fall, warm and color-rich, sunny and dry. I’ve enjoyed an impromptu couch-surfing stay from my daughter—seeing her in the mornings again, having some creative feminine energy in the house, bonus conversations, a bit of a rerun of days long ago slipped by. I’ve enjoyed naps in the October sun, and visits to the sunny and oxygen-rich pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory. I’ve enjoyed visits with the kids and grandkids, and visits with friends, and lovely everyday gifts from those just here for me with things like an apple fritter, a story to make me laugh, or an enthusiastic declaration of “I’m going to go hug these lab results”.

At a week-night supper my mom cooked for us last week the gifts were of two kinds, the very tangible, and the less tangible. There was the lavish spread: a large platter of delicate salmon and vegetable side dishes enough to cover every ounce of space on the table. And then there were the goodbyes at the end of the evening between my 86-year-old dad and his sister, and my mom and her sister-in-law. The former playfully and laughingly slapped each other around a little, the latter—two women surely not even five feet tall—looked affectionately into each other’s eyes, touched each other’s cheeks, and got verbal reassurance the other was okay.

I had a glimpse of truth in that moment—we live for beauty and meaning and love, ever more so as our bodies begin to betray us. And these things sometimes lie in places not readily evident in our busy lives. My many months of underachievement are no less meaningful than those of the brilliant and energetic young adults looking for better cancer treatments. We are so much more than what we can produce and measure. We are what we value and nurture, valuable simply by virtue of being, by the fact that we love.

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A Full Moon, Terra Firma, and a Full Life

Harvest MoonWe’ve had a full moon in the air this week, ripe with possibility, the unexpected and new, the birth of things that have been incubating for some time. The stale heavy air has been blown dry with fresh breezes, a bright sun and a bright moon. Days are still warm; nights have become cooler. I notice these things—the sun and the moon and the earth—because they ground me.

My psyche too has been incubating a few things, and, by way of the periodic dialysis I go for with the intuitive, kind, solid-as-a-rock and generous-beyond-words woman I turn to for this purpose, I think I may now once again be clear enough to turn from languid mid-summer days to welcome the changes in the air.

Earlier this summer, savouring the season’s sweetness—once over the most delectable backyard barbequed steak on a Cobb salad followed by the best homemade apple pie, and more recently with other friends over an equally delectable cedar plank salmon and paella followed by fresh U-pick raspberries on cheesecake—I’d sensed the first hints of fall. Not in the air yet on those evenings, but perhaps rather in the faces of our friends.

Change is usually bittersweet, but with the bitter aspect comes crisp, and bright, and a new kind of sweetness.  Yesterday, I saw so clearly days from 20 and 30 years ago, the days I first greeted the unspeakably sweet faces of my babies, the sunny magical days of promise, days overflowing with love, literally. These were days when my children’s kisses and laughter and fears and tears filled my days with purpose and joy, days when our little family was on the cusp of so much.

Today I see clearly again how deeply the earth sustains us through so many seasons and storms. She watches, listens, breathes, shelters. She is susceptible to erosion by wind and water and fire, but she absorbs, regenerates, heals, nourishes. She is solid, and provides beds of soil for growth, and beds for hydrating, cleansing streams of water. She is loyal and patient and forgiving. She whispers the truth: we are all made of star stuff, we are all connected—connected to her, to the universe, to each other, those who have come before us, and those will follow us.

What has been incubating for me in recent weeks is this message for my offspring: live fully, now, in the summer of your lives. Remember that the ordinary—everything from stepping out onto wet grass in bare feet to scrubbing the mineral deposits from your shower—can be grounding and nourishing, and remember that being well-nourished is what protects us from the ennui that can come along to haunt us at times.

So work hard, but take time to play too, and to rest, and to cry when it is the only thing to do, and take time to breathe and give your deepest self a hug. Remember that it is in inhaling and exhaling deeply that we are renewed, that this is how we slow down enough to take in all of reality, both bitter and sweet, which is what we need to do in order to digest it and allow it to dissipate, and keep it from weighing us down too much, and yes, nourish us and foster growth.

Remember these things, because along with the intellect and talent and energy and humour you have inherited from your parents and grandparents, you have also inherited their burdens, though it is your job to shed these, not bear them. It is your job to fly high, higher than we have, and leave something better than you were given. It is your job to chase your bliss, and to someday pass on to your own children their own bliss. So grab the ticket that is your birthright and go, chase your dreams with all your might. Don’t look back our way. We have all we need to find our own way through our own continually emptying and refilling seasons; you have all you need to find yours.